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G&A: The Contest Blog

The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice will once again award ten-thousand-dollar grants to a poet and a fiction writer, but with a deadline falling a few months earlier than last year's. Entries for the 2011 awards, given to lesbian writers for work with lesbian content, will be due by the end of the business day on March 22.

Two finalists in each genre will receive one thousand dollars each and six honorable mentions will be awarded one hundred dollars each, with at least one of the grants given to a writer west of the Mississippi. A panel of distinguished lesbian writers, which has in the past been populated by writers such as Sharon Bridgforth, Staceyanne Chin, Kristen Hogan, Achy Obejas, and Pamela Sneed, will select the grantees.

For guidelines on what to submit and access to Astraea's online submission system (their preferred mode of entry), visit the foundation's Web site.

In the video below, 2010 poetry winner Lenelle Moïse reads a poem inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat over a montage of his paintings.

The National Book Foundation (NBF) has begun to roll out its series of conversations about the poetry volumes that have won the National Book Award in the genre over the past sixty-one years. Fifty-one books (the prize was not awarded from 1984 to 1990, which accounts for the discrepancy), from William Carlos Williams's Paterson: Book Three and Selected Poems (New Directions, 1950) to Terrance Hayes's Lighthead (Penguin, 2010), will be covered in short essays by contemporary emerging poets such as Ross Gay, John Murillo, and Evie Shockley.

The project is part of the NBF's Lineage program, celebrating the poetry prize's all-stars since 1950 (two years ago, the NBF published a similar series of essays highlighting its fiction winners). The retrospective, says NBF director of programs Leslie Shipman, is designed "to generate a discussion [about] how American poetry has evolved over the past sixty years and it's current vitality in the cultural landscape."

The foundation is also holding a related panel and poetry reading next Thursday and Friday in New York City. Later this spring the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis will host a Lineage presentation, and one additional event in another city is also in the works.

To read the daily poetry book posts, which include biographical information, excerpts of poems, links, and contextual nuggets, visit the NBF's Web site.

In the video below, Kathy Bates reads 1952 winner Marianne Moore's "Poetry." The NBF essay on Moore's Collected Poems was written by poet Lee Felice Pinkas.

Dzanc Books has announced the winner of its 2010 short story collection competition. Jason Ockert, who teaches at Coastal Carolina University outside Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, received the one-thousand-dollar prize, and his second collection, Neighbors of Nothing, will be published in October 2013 by the five-year-old Michigan press that has brought to print works by writers such as Laura van den Berg, Roy Kesey, Terese Svoboda, and Peter Selgin.

Ockert is also the author of Rabbit Punches, published in 2006 by Low Fidelity Press in Brooklyn, New York. In a review of his debut collection, Publishers Weekly says, "Though Ockert's voice is still developing, his beautiful and unexpected imagery make him a writer to be watched."

Take a gander at the author in the video below, in which Ockert previews one of the stories in his forthcoming collection at last year's Virginia Festival of the Book.

The shortlist for the fourth annual Man Asian Literary Prize was announced yesterday, marking the first time the relatively new prize has called out titles already published in English. According to an article on yesterday's Wall Street Journal arts blog, the shift took place after organizers found the prize wasn't quite fulfilling its original objective: to seek out and distinguish unknown writers.

The old prize model accepted from Asian writers novel manuscripts that remained unpublished in English, but, despite the proposed aim of the award, did not stipulate at what stage in their careers eligible writers should be. The inaugural winner, selected from more than two hundred and fifty submissions, was Jiang Rong for Wolf Totem, which had already been published in Chinese and sold millions of copies. In 2009, Su Tong, well known for his novel Raise the Red Lantern, won for The Boat to Redemption. Only the 2008 winner, Filipino American writer Miguel Syjuco, was recognized for what would become his debut novel, Ilustrado (and even he had received the prestigious Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature for the same manuscript in the Philippines).

“As we sat down and thought about it, we came to realize that, in fact, the Man Booker [Prize] format of dealing with published novels is a lot better,” David Parker, chairman of the Man Asian Literary Prize, told the Wall Street Journal, referring to the Man Asian Prize's long-running British Commonwealth counterpart. He went on to say that the Booker "is a focus of a conversation about literature that occurs every year. It’s not just about writers and publishers. It’s about readers as well. It’s about the whole culture getting involved in literature.”

This year's conversation-starters are:
Three Sisters (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Bi Feiyu of China
Serious Men (Norton) by Manu Joseph of India
The Thing About Thugs (HarperCollins) by Tabish Khair of India
The Changeling (Grove Press) by Kenzaburo Oe of Japan
Hotel Iris (Picador) by Yoko Ogawa of Japan

The winner of the thirty-thousand-dollar prize will be announced in Hong Kong on March 17.

Symphony Space in New York City is introducing a little competition to the ticket holders to the March 2 performance of Selected Shorts, its storytelling series. The theater, which houses one of New York City's most literary stages, will hold a story contest—Electric Shorts—on the occasion of Selected Shorts: Electric Literature, a presentation of stories from the digital (and print-on-demand) magazine performed by comedians including Mike Birbiglia and John Lithgow.

To enter, writers should purchase a ticket to the event (fifteen dollars for attendees age thirty and under, twenty-three dollars for Symphony Space members, and twenty-seven dollars for everyone else), then submit a story of up to five hundred words. Each e-mailed submission must include the writer's name, address, phone number, e-mail address, the work's title, its word count, and the date of ticket purchase. The deadline is February 25.

A winner, selected by Electric Literature author Rick Moody, will be announced at the March 2 event, and that winner's story will be read onstage by one of the evening's performers. The story will also be recorded for a Selected Shorts podcast. There is no cash prize for this award (but we do hear there'll be rum cocktails served gratis during the event).

The Man Booker Prize has created another one-off award. Intended to celebrate the life's work of the late Beryl Bainbridge, who had been a finalist for the prestigious British award five times but never won, the Best of Beryl prize will call out the most Booker-worthy of her shortlisted titles, as determined by public vote.

Voters can choose between Bainbridge's novels Master Georgie (1998), Every Man for Himself (1996), An Awfully Big Adventure (1990), the Guardian Fiction Award–winning The Bottle Factory Outing (1974), and  The Dressmaker (1973). (Incidentally, her final novel, The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress, forthcoming in June from Little, Brown, is ineligible for a posthumous Booker nomination—only living writers are considered for the honor.) The Best of Beryl title will be announced in April.

"Beryl did want to win the Booker very much despite her protests to the contrary," says Bainbridge's daughter, Jojo Davies. "We are glad she is finally able to become the bride, no longer the bridesmaid."

Meanwhile, the Guardian's Michael Holroyd takes a more skeptical stance on what exactly the award is celebrating.

In the video below, BBC News takes a look back at the life of Bainbridge at the time of her death last July.

As the new year rages on with news of political unrest abroad, PenTales, a New York City–based organization dedicated to furthering global dialogue through stories, has announced a short story contest on the theme of "revolt." The competition welcomes entries from around the globe (written in or translated into English) that offer unique perspective on the topic.

According to the contest guidelines listed on the PenTales Web site, judge Daniel Rasmussen, author of American Uprising: The Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revolt (Harper, 2011), will be looking for "stories that capture the bravery and idealism of men and women who fight against oppression and injustice; stories that disinter the wild spirit of man in rebellion; stories that remind us of the wild dreams and tremendous risks of complete and total revolt."

The winning work, as well as the second- and third-place selections, will be published on the PenTales Web site along with a review by Rasmussen. The winner will also receive a signed copy of American Uprising.

The deadline for entries, which should be submitted via e-mail, is March 7.

For those seeking inspiration from a book on the subject, this recent post on the New Yorker's Book Bench blog recommends a few illuminating titles, including Gabriel García Márquez's 1975 novel, The Autumn of the Patriarch.

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